Friday, March 27, 2009

News - 03/27/09...

Monsters Pop Up at the Box Office

Monsters vs. Aliens is here at last — the big question is how big a bite these warring creatures will take out of the weekend box office.

The most recent release from DreamWorks Animation, MvA is opening at some 3,500 theaters. The film also is the most recent test for 3-D technology, which DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg is betting on heavily. Of an expected 7,000 total screens, about 2,000 will be 3-D, with many charging a premium of a few dollars for the experience. The per-screen average for 3-D screens is expected to clobber that for 2-D screens.

Directed by Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2) and Rob Letterman (Shark Tale), the feature centers on a group of 1950s B-movie-style monsters, who are unleashed by the military to fight an alien attack—plus a twist of femme liberation thrown in, courtesy of a the giant-sized Ginormica (voiced by Reese Witherspoon). Seth Rogen, Stephen Colbert, Will Arnett, Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland provide the voices of some of the other colorful characters.

The movie has received good pre-release word of mouth, generating a respectable 74% on the website, which provides an average score of all available reviews. "Monsters vs. Aliens is possibly the most commercial title of the year. How can you resist such a premise, especially if it's in 3-D animation? Very readily, in my case!" writes Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times.

You can pick up the new issue of Animation Magazine for a great behind-the-scenes cover story about the making of the movie.

Also new to the box office this weekend are the Lionsgate horror film The Haunting in Connecticut (set for some 2,600 theaters) and the Fox action-adventure movie 12 Rounds, opening in 2,200 theaters.

Penguins of Madagascar Set for TV Debut

They stole the show in the big-screen feature Madagascar and its sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and now they’ve scored their own TV series, debuting this weekend on Nickelodeon.

Titled Penguins of Madagascar, the half-hour series is executive produced by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley and produced by DreamWorks Animation. It features the voice talents of Tom McGrath, Jeff Bennett, John DiMaggio, James Patrick Stuart, Danny Jacobs, Andy Richter, Kevin Michael Richardson and Nicole Sullivan.

The series premieres with the episode “Launchtime,” airing Saturday, March 28, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, immediately following Nick’s 22nd Annual Kids Choice Awards. The series will then air a new episode each weeknight at 8 p.m. from two weeks before moving into a permanent time slot Saturdays at 10 a.m. starting April 18.

Pocoyo Special Goes Global at MipTV

The makers of Spain’s pre-school series Pocoyo are creating a new animated special for the series to debut at MipTV

Zinkia and ITV Global Entertainment will bring to the market Pocoyo and the Space Circus, a new 25-minute special that aired at Christmas on TVE1 in Spain to critical acclaim.

Distribution rights for the special and the series’ 104 seven-minute episodes are beign handled for Latin America by Zinkia and for the rest of the world — excluding Spain, Portugal and Italy — by ITV.

The series, licensed to more than 100 countries, also has a strong internet following, with the official Pocoyo site ( available in nine languages and drawing more than 2.7 million unique visitors.

Academy to Celebrate Disney’s Milt Kahl

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the life and career of animator Milt Kahl, one of the famous “nine old men” of Walt Disney Studios.

The event, titled “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangelo, A Centennial Celebration,” will be held April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The event will be hosted by animator Andreas Deja and will feature a panel discussion moderated by critic and animation expert Charles Solomon and featuring Kathryn Beaumont, Brad Bird, Ron Clements, John Musker and Floyd Norman.

The event also will feature rare film interviews with Kahl, who died in 1987, an analysis of his drawings and clips from his work on such classic films as Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, Mickey’s Circus, The Jungle Book and The Rescuers.

Tickets for the event cost $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. They may be purchased online at, in person at the Academy box office or by mail. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

Spanish Comic Arrugas Gets Feature Treatment

Chalk up Spain as the next nation to jump on the graphic novel to movie train.

Producer Manuel Cristobal and his Perro Verde company have picked up the rights to Paco Roca’s graphic novel Arrugas and plan to adapt it into a 2-D animated feature film, Variety reports.

Ignacio Ferreras will direct the film, which follows character affected by Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. His animated short, How to Cope With Death, won the best first film prize at Annecy in 2003.

Roca will write the screenplay with Angel de la Cruz, while actor Jose Sacristan is set to play the lead. Perro Verde is set to finance the film’s $2.6 million budget itself.

Happy Birthday

Guess who's past Social Security age?

Tweety is sixty-seven.

Sylvester, by contrast, is a young sixty-four. But trust me. You don't want to see a picture of the cat ....

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Roger Ebert Says It So I Don’t Have To

Roger Ebert offers thoughts about 3-D after watching Monsters vs. Aliens:

I will say this first and get it out of the way: 3-D is a distraction and an annoyance. Younger moviegoers may think they like it because they’ve been told to, and picture quality is usually far from their minds. But for anyone who would just like to be left alone to see the darned thing, like me, it’s a constant nudge in the ribs saying never mind the story, just see how neat I look.

[I]f this is the future of movies for grownups and not just the kiddies, saints preserve us. Billions of people for a century have happily watched 2-D and imagined 3-D. Think of the desert in
“Lawrence of Arabia.” The schools of fish in “Finding Nemo.” The great hall in “Citizen Kane.” Now that flawless screen surface is threatened with a gimmick, which, let’s face it, is intended primarily to raise ticket prices and make piracy more difficult. If its only purpose was artistic, do you think Hollywood would spend a dime on it?

Ebert also disliked Monsters vs. Aliens, although he suggests that kids might enjoy it, “especially those below the age of reason.” Ouch!

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

How the Trek: Next Generation cast beams into Family Guy

Stewie builds a transporter and beams the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation to his bedroom, including Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes.

Family Guy executive producer and show runner David A. Goodman told reporters that the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation were game to let themselves be spoofed for this weekend's episode of Fox's long-running animated series.

The regular TNG cast—Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby—play themselves in "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven," which finds Stewie building a transporter and beaming the actors into his room after he doesn't get to ask a question of them at the annual Quahog Star Trek convention.

Goodman, who was a writer and producer on Star Trek: Enterprise, spoke about the episode—as well as the next Star Wars-themed movie—during a conference call on Tuesday. Following are edited excerpts from that conversation. "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" will premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday.

What would you say is your favorite scene from the episode?

Well, that's interesting. I think my favorite scene is the one that I'm in. I'm a huge Star Trek fan, so the artists drew a version of me, and then I voiced the character dressed as a Star Trek ... some might say fan, some might say geek, asking a question at the convention. And then I have a little bit of a run-in later with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes. So that's probably my favorite scene.

What do you think is the best line of dialogue in the episode?

Best line of dialogue? ... To me, the best line of dialogue is what Stewie says to the cast at the end of the episode. I'm not going to give it away, but his attitude toward the cast ... [Stewie] didn't get to ask his question at the Star Trek convention, so he kidnaps all of them and he has a little bit of a journey with them, and his final words to them, I think, are very funny, but I'm not going to give it away.

Why do an episode with the Next Generation cast now? Is it a tie-in of any kind to the new film?

No, that's not the intention. You could have asked, last week, why did we do a Back to the Future reference when the movies are so old. We're fans. Especially Seth [MacFarlane] and I are huge fans of Star Trek, and we realized that although there had been plenty of episodes of episodic television that brought back the cast of the original series—in fact, I wrote one of them for Futurama, "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," where we reunited the original cast—Seth and I realized that nobody had really reunited the Next Generation cast. And many of them had appeared on our show. Next Generation was a hugely popular show in its day. I think they got, like, 10 or 12 million viewers a week. We only get, like, 8 [million]. It was a popular show. We're not necessarily going to reference the most current show, although we do that, [but] our stock in trade is our own memories of those shows we watched when we were younger.

You did the Star Wars movie, Blue Harvest. Now there's this Star Trek episode. How about a Terminator spoof?

We've done occasional Terminator gags. We've got one, I think, coming up. But our big movie things coming up, we did The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi has just gone into production. So we're doing all three of the Star Wars films. And then we occasionally do movie parodies within the course of an episode. We have an episode that's very reminiscent of Tootsie that's coming up next year. But, no, no plans at the moment to do The Terminator.

The episode is titled "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven." What does Brian have to do in the episode?

There's two stories going on in the episode. One story follows Meg and Brian. Meg finds God, and she finds religion and is giving Brian a hard time for his atheism. So that's one story, and when we developed that story we saw that Stewie didn't have a big role to play. So we then also developed a story to go with it, and the two stories tie together in the beginning, when the family goes to the Star Trek convention and Stewie doesn't get to ask his question. So he buys plans for a transporter and beams the cast into his room. But the other story is Meg and Brian, and it's them butting heads over religion. It's a subject we've done before in different ways, but this one has a new twist on it. We were struck by the fact that in America atheism is considered worse, by some people, than Muslim extremism. That was an interesting subject for us, we've thought. And we've always said Brian is an atheist, so he seemed the natural [character].

Can you talk about the Next Generation actors playing themselves?

Goodman: They were all very game. We had fun playing with who they really are. Stewie discovers what it's like to hang out with them. It's a Family Guy twist on your expectations. So I'm very pleased with the surprises in the episode, in terms of the journey that Stewie takes with these people.

Did the actors come in all at once, or did they record their dialogue separately?

Just given people's schedules and given how animation works, you almost never have people in at the same time. I think people were in on the same day. A few of them were in on the same day, but their schedules were scattered, and so we were amenable to working around their schedules. Most of them came in separately, but I think Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby came in around the same time, and I got some pictures taken with them. I think, actually, we recorded Patrick Stewart remotely. He was in London when he recorded his role. ...

What's the update on Star Wars?

I think, but I'm not absolutely sure, that Empire Strikes Back, that episode will air at the end of next season. It may be released before then [on DVD], but it'll air at the end of next season. That movie was a very different movie from the first Star Wars, so as a result our sequel is also a lot different, a lot of new characters, and a lot of great jokes that we threw in. We were very happy with how the first one turned out, so the bar was very high for the sequel. We're a little bit early for the third one, but because we're very happy with how Empire has turned out, the third one also, the bar is set even that much higher. And I think we're ripe to disappoint people. ...

Back to Star Trek. As a Trekkie, were there any jokes or issues you felt you just had to get in there? Like a Tasha Yar joke? Or a Geordi joke?

Well, there is a Tasha Yar joke in the episode. It's pretty obvious from the minute she opens her mouth. Denise was very game about it, and anybody who is familiar with the series will get it right away. Anybody who is not, it just plays as a joke on its own. For me, the second scene that my character is [in] I am pontificating about a piece of Star Trek [canon]. I'm having an argument with another Star Trek fan about what they call Star Trek canon, and the argument is actually a real argument that Star Trek fans have. So I was very pleased to put that in.

Can you tell us what the argument is?

Yes! I'm going to sound like a real Star Trek fan. In the episode "Relics," in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the character of Scotty is pulled out of suspended animation, and he says, "Oh, did Captain Kirk come to pick me up?" And then we find out after The Next Generation ended that Captain Kirk died and Scotty was there. So why, in that episode, did he think Captain Kirk was going to pick him up if he saw him die later? And, of course, the answer is that, from a production standpoint, they hadn't made the movie yet and made that decision. But there is actually a possible explanation which I offer in the guise of a cartoon character. So I was very pleased to do it. Does that make any sense to you at all?

Disney and ImageMovers Negotiating to Produce 'Stoneheart' Feature

The Hollywood Reporter reports that "ImageMovers and Disney are in negotiations to pick up film rights to The Stoneheart Trilogy, a young-adult fantasy book series by Charlie Fletcher. ImageMovers' Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey will produce, [and] the intent is to adapt Stoneheart using performance-capture."

The Stoneheart Trilogy tells the story of a London boy who enters an alternate reality where statues come to life. The boy's presence in the alternate world disrupts the balance between good and evil, "and while dealing with such creatures as sphinxes and gargoyles, he teams with an orphan girl and the statue of a World War I gunner to try to set things right."

ImageMovers has two other "performance-capture" film projects in development: Mars Needs Moms, based on the children's novel by Berkeley Breathed, with Simon Wells (The Prince of Egypt, Balto) directing; and Airman based on an adaptation of Eoin Colfer's adventure book to be directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House).

Analysts Expect Big Opening for "Monsters vs. Aliens;" Dir. Conrad Vernon Interview

The Hollywood Reporter has published an article detailing expectations for the new DreamWorks Animation Studios movie Monsters vs. Aliens, which opens this Friday, March 27, 2009. Although the movie is not scheduled to open in 3-D in as many theaters as DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had initially hoped, it will still be screening in 3-D on more than 2,000 screens and is expected to take in more than $50m through Sunday.

Elsewhere, Newsarama has interviewed Monsters vs. Aliens co-director Conrad Vernon, who delves into what inspired him in making the movie; what it was like to work with actors like Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Colbert, and Rainn Wilson; and how he dealt with the late addition of 3-D to the moviemaking proces.

Additionally, The Toronto Sun has an interview with Reese Witherspoon discussing her role as "Ginormica."

Voice actress, jingle singer Connie Zimet dies, 67

Sultry-voiced Connie Zimet sang "It's the real thing," promised that Norwegian cruises are "as far from the everyday as a ship can take you"... advocated Pall Mall cigarettes' "natural mildness"... and was the voice of Lucy on an album version of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

In 1971, as "Connie Z," she narrated The Way to Become the Sensuous Woman for Atlantic Records.

The longtime voiceover artist died March 10 at her Plantation, Florida home at 67. Zimet contracted bronchitis in her final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In cartoons, Zimet voiced Miss Nelson and Miss Viola Swamp in Miss Nelson is Missing! (Synatrak, 1979). She was also in the voice cast of the 1980 Learning Corporation of America cartoon Ida Fanfanny and the Four Seasons.

Other products she promoted in song and prose included Apple computers, Fresca soda, Ajax scouring powder, Chevrolets and Godfather's pizzas.

When she moved to South Florida in the mid-1970s, "there was not much of a market here for voiceovers," son Zach Ziskin, a Fort Lauderdale music producer and voiceover artist, told the Miami Herald.

"She was a pioneer who helped build the market.... The more she did it, the more opportunities opened up for her. And before she knew it, it was 20 years later and she was considered an expert in the field."

From 2003 until last year, Zimet led the Miami chapter of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The daughter of a traveling salesman and a former dancer, Zimet grew up in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. At age 8, she started acting in local productions and summer stock theater. At 17, she went to New York.

After studying interior design and acting, she signed with Colpix, Capitol and Todd record labels, her son said.

Zimet provided a wide variety of tones and accents. ''Whatever something called for, she was up for it,'' said her son, although at home, "she was never really 'on.'''

Zimet also instructed other aspiring voice artists. "Everybody I know here on both sides, producers and performers, claimed she really built this market," said Herta Suarez, AFTRA's southeast regional director. "She was very busy herself, teaching voice lessons and doing voiceovers."

When she taught, "people would just not want to leave because she was so entertaining," Suarez added.

During a 2004 workshop in New Orleans, Zimet advised: "You're an actor when you're doing a voiceover. So, find your character, your attitude, answer what your condition is, and the voice will come out the way it should be heard. Focus on intention."

Aspiring voice actors should "read everything aloud -- magazines, newspapers, recipes. Yeah, it may bug your significant other or your pets, but they'll get used to it," she said.

Zimet started to stumble and fall two years ago. Although she blamed bad knees, replacement surgery didn't help, and she was unable to walk while in rehabilitation.

She started losing functions in her arms and hands by early 2008. In her last few months, she no longer could speak.

An online fundraising campaign helped the family buy a sight-recognition communications device that "was truly a godsend"' when his mother was voiceless, Zach Ziskin said. "She had it for the last month and was able to communicate with her eye movement."

Connie Zimet was predeceased by a brother, who drowned in childhood. She was married briefly to composer-pianist Victor Ziskin.

Her son plans to complete Connie Zimet's Voice-over Tool Box, a book that his mother left unfinished. He also plans to hold a celebration of her life in the months ahead.


Screenwriter brings comic-in-comic to animated life

From comic to feature film to animated short story, screenwriter Alex Tse has played an essential role in helping transition WATCHMEN beyond its initial incarnation.

Ironically, when it came to bringing the graphic novel’s classic story-within-a-story, 'Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter', Tse wrote the screenplay without knowing what that final incarnation would be.

Black Freighter went through a lot of incarnations – we talked about doing it live action, then ‘300’ green screen-style, then we decided it would be animated – so I wrote it without a firm idea of the format,” said Tse, who had not previously written for animation. “I guess I just didn’t treat it any differently than any writing project I normally undertake. And I’m guessing this was probably like nothing I ever will work on again.”

The Mariner's journey toward insanity is depicted in vivid animation during WATCHMEN: TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER
© Warner Bros. Ent Inc.

TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER is the story-within-the-story of WATCHMEN, revolving around a mariner who is marooned on a distant island after his ship is attacked by the infamous pirate ship, the Black Freighter. He begins to imagine the Black Freighter setting sail for his hometown – and attacking his family – and engages in a desperate mission to return home and save his wife and children. Along the way, fear and desperation begin to play tricks with his mind, and rob the mariner of his sanity – leading him to commit atrocities of his own as he tries to stop the marauding pirates. As told within the Watchmen graphic novel, the story acts as a distorted mirror image of the Watchmen super heroes plight.

“In the book, I think it was written as a parallel to the Watchmen story – with one major difference,” Tse said. “In Black Freighter, the sea captain thinks everything he is doing is for a good purpose. But then he realizes, no matter how well intentioned his acts have been, he has done some horrible things. In Watchmen, even though Adrian Veidt says he realizes the consequences of his actions and that he has made himself feel each death he has caused, he never seems to express that pain or sorrow. There’s no real remorse for what he’s done. So either he doesn’t fully realize it or he just doesn’t care.”

Tse said he was particularly focused on keeping the tragic tale grounded in a relatable situation that would allow audiences to understand the mariner’s plunge toward insanity.

The Mariner reaches his homeland in his desperate mission to stop an attack on his family in WATCHMEN: TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER
© Warner Bros. Ent Inc.

“I am not a huge fan of movies where you’re just watching someone go crazy – as a viewer, it’s hard to connect to that idea,” Tse said. “You need to be able to relate to his situation, to understand why he’s going insane. With Black Freighter, it was important to keep it grounded in the cause of his madness. He’s been through a traumatic experience, he’s alone, and now he’s doing anything he can to get back to his home and save his family. So when he does these horrible, crazy things, you know he’s doing it to try and save what is dearest to him. An audience can understand that situation.”

Produced in association with Legendary Pictures, WATCHMEN: TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER is executive produced by Watchmen director Zack Snyder, Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Deborah Snyder, Thomas Tull and Wesley Coller.

Tales of the Black Freighter features the voices of Gerard Butler (300) and Jared Harris (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and is directed by Daniel DelPurgatorio and Mike Smith and written by Tse and Zack Snyder. Tales of the Black Freighter is produced by Brian McNulty and Karen Mayeda-Vranek.

Toon Zone News Interviews the Brave and Bold James Tucker!

In Toon Zone News' last interview with James Tucker, Batman: The Brave and the Bold was four months away from its debut on Cartoon Network! Now, just past the halfway point of the initial order of 26 episodes and a triumphant appearance at the 2009 New York Comic Con, we were able to sit down with Tucker again to talk about the first season of the show and what to look forward to in season 2! What new heroes will be appearing alongside Gotham City's Caped Crusader? Who was the REAL inspiration for the gangster Babyface? And what's all this we hear about a musical? Get Brave, get Bold, and read on!

JAMES TUCKER: It was good seeing you in New York.

TOON ZONE NEWS: Yeah, it was good seeing you too. Glad you were able to make it out there.

Yeah, barely. (Laughing) I was definitely not in the best of health that weekend. Major cold. But I made it through, and I thought the panel went well.

TZN: Was that the first time you've ever seen an episode of the show with a large audience?

You know, I think it was! It was really enlightening (laughs). You know, I kind of gathered that people liked the show, but I didn't know if it was a guilty pleasure for people, but the crowd was so enthusiastic, I went, "Wow, these people are actually PROUD of liking this show!" (laughs) So that was cool. It was nice hearing that everyone got everything that we were trying to do as opposed to thinking it was just a one-trick pony. Everyone seemed to really appreciate all the effort we put into the show. That was really, really heartening.

TZN: Definitely. Now, I know you've been doing a lot of other interviews lately, so this is something that I'm beginning to ask people who are doing a lot of press: what question do you really want to never answer again for a while?

That's a good question. I guess the whole, "Is it campy or not?" It's not really a question, but people seem to think that somehow, this Batman is not as valid as the current feature film Batman. Even Batman the Animated Series is in its own world, too, but there are a lot of different Batmans. There's a lot of ways to do Batman, and I hope that by now everyone understand what we're doing. We're actually honoring a large chunk of his history. The whole comparison to the Adam West show or finding “campiness” in the show is the inferred question that I hear a lot. "Why would you want to go back and do this?" Because this was cool at one point, and given the shows success, we have proven it can be cool again. That’s pretty much my answer.

TZN: Oh, good, because I wasn't going to ask you that today.

(laughs). Well, I think you asked it a long time ago. You were one of the first to ask it, so I wasn't tired of it at that point (laughter).

TZN: I'm a bit confused about the first season vs. the second season, and how “Mystery in Space!” is billed as the second season premiere. Was the show signed for two seasons?

Generally, you get an order of 26. How they make it a season is more on the network's end than ours. We created 26 episodes when the show was picked up by Cartoon Network, but then their programming execs break them up into whatever works for their scheduling. They dictate what constitutes a “season.” It doesn't affect our production because we're going to complete the full order of 26 episodes. In fact, I just finished approving color on the 26th episode.

We did know that at mid-point in the 26 episode order, we wanted a two-parter. It was more of an idea that it was an event, not a season finale. You can't assume anything. We just try to write the best stories possible. Some stories merit a two-parter, and the fans love the variety. On our end, we're just making the best show we can.

TZN: Let's talk about that two-parter in order. The first episode, “Deep Cover for Batman!”, you had that parallel universe, and I read someplace that you could only clear the rights for Owl Man.

Yeah, originally we were going to call them the Crime Syndicate. It was pretty much going to be the characters you saw, but we were just going to call them the Crime Syndicate. Because of other things going on, the stakeholders said, "Well, no, don't call them the Crime Syndicate," but we got to use Owl Man, which was the only one we needed anyway. It was fun to make up doppelgängers of the other Brave and the Bold characters anyway, and it actually helped tie the story together. It was a very similar situation to when we were doing "A Better World" on Justice League. Originally, they were going to be called the Crime Syndicate, and then we weren't allowed to call them the Crime Syndicate. This shifted the whole story, and it ended up being much better. It didn't hurt us then, and it certainly didn't hurt us this time, either. But yeah, originally, we did want the Crime Syndicate name.

TZN: But not necessarily the Crime Syndicate characters, then?

No, that was never a consideration.

TZN: Are you ever planning to go back there and revisit that dark parallel world, or any of the others that had been suggested?

We haven’t talked about it yet. There are so many other things on our "To Do" list. Eventually, there's a point when you run out of new ideas, and then you decide, "Oh, let's go back to something we did before, but explore it a little further." We haven't reached that point yet but I wouldn't rule it out down the line. It just depends on how many seasons we get (laughs).

TZN: The other big guest star in that two-parter was the Joker, of course. Visually, he seems a lot like the original Bob Kane Joker and the Dick Sprang Joker. Character-wise, did you have any specific versions of the Joker that you were thinking of and trying to bring to the screen?

Yeah, pretty much the Joker from his first story all the way into probably "The Laughing Fish," I guess (laughs). The Joker we presented was pretty much who the Joker was for the longest time. He wasn't the disturbed, quasi-ambiguous sexuality Joker that we have now (laughs). He wasn't quite as disturbing. He was a little saner, if you will. Still crazy, but he wasn't just doing arbitrary things or being out there. It was a different kind of Joker. More continental and a little more dapper. Suave. People rag on the Cesar Romero Joker, but he got more right than he got wrong, if you look at the comic books at the time. What he did was pretty much what the Joker was at the time. And he did it very well so we went back to that characterization, and what the comics were doing. His humor is more sophisticated in some ways, but then he is also more childish. He's just not the giggling fiend or a total lunatic.

TZN: Not as sociopathic.

Exactly. He's not a serial killer sociopath, but he's still offs people. He offed the jewelry store guy, but he does it with a flair that doesn't seem in vogue now. He's old school Joker and that's what I wanted. This was my favorite version of the Joker visually as well. And coincidentally, that's easier to do in animation.

TZN: One of my favorite bits of that whole episode was at the very end, when Batman comes out and has, like, 8 different versions of Batman behind him.

Yeah, that was fun.

TZN: I imagine you guys had a lot of fun just coming up with crazy ideas for alternate world Batmen.

There were a few of these incarnations were things I specifically wanted to use from the comic books. The Solar Batman that people seem to be trying to figure out on the Internet was just a made-up Batman. I don't know if that Batman exists in the comics. The other ones included one from the Elseworlds Batman which was a pirate and the other was from Red Rain. There was one based on a cowboy who was tied to Nighthawk from the comics, the old western version an old DC Western hero. There was Bat-Hulk from the 60's. Most of them were based on comic book-based characters, or versions of Batman, except that one that I mentioned. It was a lot of fun. I've read on the Internet that people have thought it would be even cooler if it we had included the Batman Beyond Batman, and...

TZN: Batman the Animated Series Batman?


TZN: ...yeah, but we've seen that. (laughter)

You took the words right out of my mouth. I will give the fans this: it was thought about before we nixed it. Why put ourselves in that position when we're just out of the gate? You can do a homage down the line sometime, but this wasn't the show for it. I appreciate that people have taken to this Batman. They have embraced him, and that's good, so I don't want to undermine that by bringing up the past too soon. I'll always find ways to put little Easter Eggs in there for the fans, but I think it turned out better for it. I love the 2-parter. It is my favorite of the series so far, but we have good stuff coming up.

We're going into reruns for this month in April. Our first new episode will be May 1st, and it's called "Night of the Huntress." It features Tara Strong as the Huntress. Will Friedle is going to be in it as Blue Beetle, and it'll also have the return of Tom Kenny as Babyface. It's pretty much my version of a Dick Tracy episode. Most people who know of me artistically, know that I'm really into the Dick Tracy style of art, which is kind of reflected in the show, so this is my version of gangsters. Batman and Dick Tracy have a lot in common, so this is me leaning more towards the Dick Tracy version of the gangsters who have weird faces and their names equal their appearance. It also features Ellen Greene as his wife, Mrs. Manface. She is a Tony nominated actress who was Audrey in the 1986 Little Shop of Horrors, and she also starred in Pushing Daisies. She does a great job as Babyface's wife. Armin Shimmerman guest stars as the Calculator, and this is the first time that he has appeared in animated form. It's a big, funny show! Lot of humor and it furthers Blue Beetle's story. It’s pretty off the wall and will cause a lot of stir among people when they see it (laughs) and Huntress is great. I love Huntress in it.

TZN: At New York, somebody was saying that the Blue Beetle was going to discover girls in the upcoming episodes.

(laughs) Yeah, he kind of has a crush on the Huntress. To say the least.

TZN: Excellent!

(laughter) It's pretty funny.

TZN: When I saw Babyface for the first time on the show, I wondered: is he supposed to be a caricature for Bruce Timm?

You know, when I first drew Babyface, it was just a doodle in my head. To be honest with you, I drew it because of one of our designers who has a blog, Mike Manley. He infamously coined the term "babymen" for some of the guys who were ragging on us when the show was first getting promoted. They hadn't seen the show, but they already hated it. He wrote on his blog about how "The babymen don't want anything different." Around the office, we thought it was funny, because Mike is a freelancer and doesn't work on site. He went off on his own and did that. It was a big stir in the office that week, because everyone was like, "Wow, the first bit of publicity we're getting is hate mail from these people who haven't seen the show yet!" and he made them really mad (laughs). As a result, I had "babymen" on my mind and as we were beating out stories, we needed to come up with a villain. I can't remember who or why but we didn't have the rights, so we decided to make one up. I just drew a baby, and it wasn't intentional that it looks like Bruce, but as soon as he saw it, he was like, "Is that supposed to be me?" (laughs). If it was him, I'd have put a cigarette in his mouth (laughs). Regardless, I am aware of the resemblance. It wasn't intentional, but I didn't change it when I realized it did look like him.

TZN: Huntress is coming in the new episode, which ties to my next question: where are all the women on the show?

You know, here's how it goes with these shows. The shows are motivated by a lot of things and the initial push for the show is doing a good show, but we also work with the toy companies. Anyone who collects toys and has tried to collect Justice League figures knows that the toy companies don't get to the girl characters right away. So in these meetings and conversations, they want to focus on the boy toys, because that's what sells first. And as you know little boys don't quite get girls right away. Funny, but it seems to me that most boys who play video games pick the girl character to be when they're doing Mortal Kombat or Tomb Raider, but that's another story (laughs).

We are not intentionally avoiding women, but in serving the needs of all the masters that go into making these shows, some of the females didn't get the focus they deserved. The great news is that several will appear in the second 13 episodes. A lot of it was not being able to get Wonder Woman, because she probably would have been my first one to do. Huntress and Black Canary are the first salvos in fighting that battle, if you will.

TZN: Can you talk about some of the other female superheroes who will be appearing? Fire's already showed up.

Fire showed up, Black Canary is coming. Huntress. I am losing one more...

TZN: Are we going to see Power Girl?

Not this time around, though she's in the comic book. We're working on some other ones. Because of the unavailability of some of the more well-known female characters, I'm going to dig deeper for some other ones. We're talking about Vixen and Zatanna, maybe. Any time we hit a wall or there's a drawback to not being able to use one thing, we turn it into a plus and use someone else who we might not have thought of using. Someday, we might get to use those characters that we can't use now, because that's exactly what happened on Justice League.

TZN: Plus, maybe you also get the chance to do what you did with Aquaman and the Terrible Trio, and even B'wana Beast.

Yeah, I like thinking of characters who people have written off and finding something about them that will reach people and make people go, "Oh - that’s cool!" You can stay true to a character and still make people like him who may have written him off because of badly preconceived perceptions.

TZN: Speaking of Aquaman, he's the one who's been the big breakout hero for the show. I see lots of people holding him up and saying, "The Brave and the Bold is how you take a character like Aquaman and make him cool."

I'm an old-school DC fan, and the thing is that DC is not Marvel. There are things DC did very well, and in his heyday, Aquaman was one of them. He’s a great character you can be proud of, once you work with him and you find the personality. Who is he? What kind of person is he? And you play off of that. There's heroes all over comicbook-dom who have lame powers (laughs). You know, it's not really about the powers. Comic book characters aren't video game characters. You don't need to get points whenever you read a comic book about who blasted how many villains or blew up whatever. You read comics for the characters. Powers to me have always been secondary.

There's a lot to like about Aquaman, and he likes himself. We started at that jumping off point rather than trying to turn him into something that he wasn't. He works better by playing off Batman if he's the jovial and happy hero as opposed to Batman's darker brooding. We're finding we have to adjust a lot of the characters because they're going to team up with Batman. If they were just standing alone, the default mode would be to make them darker. That doesn't really work when you already have a lead character that’s somewhat dark to begin with.

TZN: He's been showing up a lot on the show. Do you worry about overusing characters?

Not Aquaman (laughs), but the way we structure our seasons is that we pick out four or five characters that we will use a little more because there's a little more to explore with them as far as story arcs. For the first season of 26 episodes we picked Blue Beetle and Aquaman. Red Tornado has another appearance at some point and he's appeared a couple of times already. So has Green Arrow. As we progress, we will bring back the guys who came in once or twice and their stories worked really well.

Initially, Aquaman and Blue Beetle were the ones we thought clicked the best, but that's what the teasers at the beginning of each episode were designed to do. They are like, "OK, let's put this character in the teaser and if it turns out well, we'll bring him back for a full episode." Some characters just don’t warrant that commitment. The fanboy in me wants to see whoever is in the teaser, and there may not be full story that can be built around them, but it's still fun to have them in the teaser. I'm not worried about Aquaman being over-exposed and we've only scratched the surface with him. Rest assured that that this will not become The Batman and Aquaman Show, either. Although that might be fun (laughs).

TZN: You know, I think the solution to that is to give Aquaman his own show.

Hey, from your mouth to Cartoon Network's ear! (laughs)

TZN: There's been a lot of talk about the upcoming musical episode. What can you tell us about that?

Well, it's a full-on musical, meaning it's almost all completely sung. It will have Gorilla Grodd, Clock King and Black Manta in it, and Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Aquaman, since you mention him. And John DiMaggio who voices Aquaman is a beautiful singer by the way (laughs). And it's going to be wall-to-wall music and a lot of fun. I can’t talk about the villain yet, so I'll leave that alone for now. Michael Jelenic and I wrote the lyrics, and then our composers, Dynamic Music Partners, composed the music and did all the scoring. And the music sounds great so far. The show hasn't been finished yet, but I'm convinced it's going to be something really special. I think people are going to enjoy it a lot.

We kind of took our cues from Joss Whedon's Buffy musical episode “One More Time with Feeling.” We've always wanted to put music into some of the episodes, and sometimes we'd just have a character sing here and there, but we've never done a full-on musical. When I was doing Legion with Michael Jelenic, we wanted to do an all music Legion episode. That would have really worked for the Legion, particularly that young romance angle. It'd be like West Side Story in space, but we never got around to it because we didn't get that third season. But we wanted to do it, so let's do it for Batman. I will say that the person who plays the villain is known for doing a lot of musicals and is currently enjoying great success on a top sitcom. He's definitely got some fan and critical cred, so people won't be surprised when they hear who's doing it. This is going to be a big, splashy, over-the-top Busby Berkley meets MGM musical meets superheroes. It will be cool, but it won't be corny.

TZN: Well, the whole show has been cool and not corny.

We can do both (laughter), as long as you do it with integrity.

TZN: If you could go back and redo one thing in the first season, what would it be?

I wouldn't have had the teasers for the first two shows be connected to the second half of the show, because really the conceit was that the teaser was a total standalone, but those teasers do tie to the rest of the episodes. Eventually, we got on board with making the teasers strictly separated. I know they turned out fine, but to me, the bolder idea, pardon the pun, was to have the teasers be a short that's separated from the show. It was hard to get to that place right off the bat, because people weren't used to it, so we kind of fudged it and had the teaser kind of lead into the show more than we do now.

That's it, really. I'm pretty happy with all the shows and the way they turned out. We didn't know what we were going to get when we sent it off. I think the finished product speaks for itself. Everything went according to plan. We weren't going to use any major Batman villains until the Joker showed up, and that was planned for the fans. There isn't really anything that surprised me or didn't really work. If you'd asked me about other series I've worked on in the past (which we won't go into), I would have had loads of stuff to say (laughs), but that's for another interview.

TZN: Do you know anything at all about DVDs?

I know that we are definitely doing what we call “soccer mom” editions. Each disk has four episodes and will be coming out some time in the near future. I don't know any of the details, though.

TZN: It sounds like you're real busy, but the last question is what else are you working on?

You mean other than this? Oh, there is nothing else. This is a full-time, 24/7 gig. I'm finishing up the first season. I'm in this position where I'm in post-production, which means the show's come back from animation and we're doing the music and the sound effects, and redoing some of the voices. That's what I'm doing on the later part of the first 26. We're talking about development for a second next season, but that’s not confirmed yet. That keeps me so busy (laughs). This is my life right now, and I am looking forward to working on some other DC properties if it works out that way. There are lots of other characters that could be opened up into their own series, so I'm looking forward to that...whenever I get time (laughs). But right now, I'm just living in a Brave and the Bold world.

TZN: Sounds like a fun place to be. Cool!

Well, thanks, and tell all the fans on Toon Zone I really appreciate their comments, and I'm really glad that so many of them like the show. I've been...I won't say shocked, but pleasantly surprised by their response.

Toon Zone News would like to thank James Tucker for taking the time to speak with us again, along with James Finch at Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Publicity for setting it up! Batman: The Brave and the Bold airs on Fridays on Cartoon Network at 8:30 PM (Eastern/Pacific), with new episodes beginning in May -- check Cartoon Network's official Brave and the Bold site for more info!

(Thanks Toon Zone News)

Much Of ‘Green Hornet’ Is ‘Up In The Air’ Right Now, Says Seth Rogen

2009 is shaping up to be another banner year for “Knocked Up” star Seth Rogen. In addition to voicing a wisecracking blue blob named B.O.B. in the DreamWorks’ 3-D animated film “Monsters vs. Aliens,” Rogen is scheduled to “Observe and Report” for director Jody Hill in April and, well… be a funny person in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” this July.

But the movie he’s currently buzzing about is
“The Green Hornet,” which Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) will now direct for Columbia after Stephen Chow (”Kung Fu Hustle”)
exited the director’s chair. Despite the switch, Rogen told MTV News that Chow is still very much involved with the project, although he has still not officially signed on to play Brit Reid’s sidekick, Kato.

“Right now, I cannot make that 100-percent guarantee, as it has not been made to me,” Rogen told MTV News. “It could happen [or] it could not happen. Honestly, I just don’t want to say either way because I don’t know.”

As for rumors that his “Observe and Report” co-star Michael Pena is in negotiations to join the cast, Rogen confessed that Pena is “not 100-percent set in stone at this point [either].”

This follows yesterday’s report about Gondry’s approach to the style of “The Green Hornet,” which Rogen summarized by saying that all of the suggestions he and co-screenwriter Evan Goldberg bring to Gondry haven’t exactly clicked with the director’s unique vision.

“He’s like, ‘No, I don’t want to [do] any of that. The fact that you think I want to do that drives me crazy and makes me never want to do anything like that again.’” said Rogen in yesterday’s report. “He hates being predictable and repetitive and doing what’s been done before.”

Rogen told MTV, however, that the film is “in preproduction” at the moment, and that the current task before the cast and crew is “rewriting a lot with Michel, so some things are kind of up in the air right now.”

“But we should start shooting at the end of June, so it should come out the end of June 2010,”
said Rogen.

Marvel Entertainment is Hiring Writers

With more than 5,000 crime fighters and villains in its library, Marvel Entertainment is assembling a group of screenwriters who will pen scripts for various properties Marvel wants to develop, Variety reported.

The writers group will be similar to that created by the fellowship program the Walt Disney Co. has been running since 1990. That group enlists a dozen writers to work with creative executives to develop films for the studio and TV shows for ABC, the Disney Channel and ABC Family.

Marvel will invite up to five writers each year to work on specific projects. Those could include staffers behind Marvel's comic books.

The trade adds that the company will provide the specific pitches it wants the writers to tackle. Those could involve certain plot points for movies already in development or characters it would like to see in its future film slate.

The gathering of screenwriters will help Marvel come up with creative ways to launch its lesser-known properties, such as Black Panther, Cable, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Nighthawk and Vision.

So far, it has focused its efforts on more popular superheroes like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America.

A group of Marvel executives will choose the writers, with the final decision made by Kevin Feige, Marvel Studio's president of production.

Terms call for Marvel to own whatever the writers work on during the year. Company has the option to continue a relationship with the writers after that period.

Wolverine 2, X-Men 5

20th Century Fox isn't going to let go of the X-Men film license any time soon, so it's pretty clear that no matter how 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' does, there'll be another X-movie within 2-3 years.

However, Ain't it Cool reports that work is already underway on a direct sequel to this summer's mutant outing. The rumor site runs an email from a fan who is working at the Bradford international Film Festival.

The fan writes: "...tonight we had Simon Beaufoy, screenwriter of 'Slumdog Millionaire' doing a screentalk. Anyway he dropped a bit of a scoop, he's been employed to write the script for 'Wolverine 2' a film."

The scooper also says Beaufoy claimed to have no idea what Wolverine was but took the job at the behest of his agent. Based on the scooper's comments, it sounds like Beaufoy is already working on the script and may have even finished it.

Ain't It Cool does not say if they've had prior dealings with this scooper or why they give the note enough credence to run with a story, so consider this an unsubstantiated rumor at this point.

Scarlett Johansson's new IRON MAN 2 look?

The New York Post has run a photo of Scarlett Johansson sporting long, dark red locks. This looks to be in prep for her role as the Black Widow in 'Iron Man 2'.

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